Creative Density: John Levisay (Craftsy) on Uncovering Niche Markets

October 4, 2013


You truly never know the glitches that might arise when you’re in the business of educating hobby-centric women about how to bake cakes that resemble castles. That is what the Craftsy team discovered when they went to the UK for a three day shoot and realized they first needed to convert all their recipe measurements to the metric system.
John Levisay, CEO & Founder of Craftsy, has experienced his fair share of realizations. For the last 15 years, he has been at the epicenter of the dialogue surrounding hobbys and pastimes. During his tenure at eBay in San Francisco, he would uncover niche markets that were unusually popular. Thus, it is no surprise to him that embroidery is a multimillion-dollar market. What is surprising is the way Craftsy has been able to reinvent the hobby learning curve in such a short period of time. Previously, practicing a new pastime was constrained by time and space (and if it wasn’t, learning was restricted to a flat, written medium). 
Craftsy’s technology allows enthusiasts to learn at the moment the flash of inspiration hits, which has a created a momentum of its own. No longer can individuals make excuses for not delving in and expanding a skill set. John is quick to point out that since the Craftsy tutorials are on-demand and trends are ever-changing, there will always be opportunities for growth. 


Founded in 2011, the company has tripled in size and is at 150 employees and still hiring more. Recognizing this expansive market opportunity has successfully supported John through numerous funding rounds. Although obtaining funding is an accomplishment, John cautions about what it truly means to a startup: “Funding doesn’t mean success, it’s a part of the process.” He advises startups seeking funding to truly analyze what type of funding matches their company--not all investments are a good fit.
Since expanding into international markets (30% of course enrollment is from outside of the US), the room for growth keeps everyone watching. John’s strategy is to shake up the mundane ritual of practicing a skill. Instead of recreating a book on tape, Craftsy focuses on featuring distinctive characters to lead their eLearners (“We’re not looking for news anchors.”) The Craftsy team has a flair for finding great instructors that offer a different perspective on a craft and have their own particular cultural nuances, which makes the tutorials very engaging. 
Craftsy’s new massive office in Downtown Denver has a personality all its own that truly embodies the company culture. From the winking smiley faces painted in the corners to the desks bedecked with scraps of fabric, you can feel the positive, youthful energy from which John has built his company. “A great place to work doesn’t mean startup clichés around zany facts--it means the actual day-to-day collaboration. I want everyone to walk away from here and say: ‘That was the best job I’ve ever had’.” 
John’s Top Reasons to Starting a Company in Colorado:
  • "Our community has a passionate group of investors focused at increasing the success rate of Colorado startups."
  • "Colorado-based startups get access to an outstanding talent pool coming from the multitude of surrounding educational institutions."
  • "The Colorado business community and business-based organizations are behind great incentives and actively connect those who look to build a business in Denver."
John’s Advice for Startups in Colorado:
“We need to think of ourselves as members of the Colorado technology community. The distance from San Jose to San Francisco is much larger than from Denver to Boulder.” 
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